Small Business: Co-working kitchen firm The Kitchen Collective set to expand

Tech entrepreneur turned co-working commercial kitchen space boss Harrison Stott talks founding a hospitality-support business after working for one in London.

What does your business do?

The Kitchen Collection is basically a ghost kitchen, we provide commercial kitchen spaces for people to be able to use for whatever they need to use it for. We have 20 private kitchens and have eight working kitchens inside a big shared kitchen space, which we are set to open later this week. Our kitchens are privately leased out for tenants, and our shared kitchen space is bookable for two shifts in a day. We have kitchens in West Auckland and in Christchurch. I was doing similar work in the UK for a company called Karma Kitchen in 2018/19 and came home to New Zealand; I thought it would be a big boom here as well. I soon realised no one else was going to it so thought it may as well be us.

What was the motivation for starting it?

I started The Kitchen Collection in 2021. We purpose-built this business around food delivery; for business owners using third-party delivery apps like Uber, Menulog, soon-to-be DoorDash when it enters the market. Since then we’ve noticed a massive increase from catering companies, young start-ups and bakers in bricks and mortar wanting to expand.

The Karma Kitchen was the first to market in London and then we started seeing new entrants entering the market. I had fallen in love with the whole concept – it’s like the co-working office space, but for commercial kitchens, and I just loved that we could work with start-ups that were in the shared space and looking to grow and expand, and people like market stalls and doing batch production, all the way up to bricks and mortar stores that wanted to expand their footprint. I loved the whole concept, and the benefits I saw for the tenants that were in that space, and basically came home to replicate it here.

How big is your team?

There are two of us; I’m working on the business full time. My business partner Rob Humpreys isn’t just yet, but hopefully that will change. We can run a pretty lean operation; we just need a community manager on site – which is me for the foreseeable future, until we can get another site in Auckland, and that’s when we will hire someone else to take over the Glendene site and I’ll take over to build the next one.

How was your business funded?

We raised a pre-seed round, $12.6 million that has gone into The Kitchen Collective. That includes buying the sites and fitting them out. The new site that we’re about to open cost about $6.4 million from buying the building to making it fit for use for commercial kitchens. Fitting out kitchen space is very expensive so at the start it was about using the expertise me and Rob both had, and we pitched that vision off to investors.

What are your plans for expansion?

We’ve mapped out Auckland quite well, we’d love a multitude of different locations in Auckland. We’re trying to focus at the moment around the central suburbs of Auckland. Our model is to buy the sites and then fit them out, but central Auckland is quite expensive so we’re currently looking to lease. We’ve pitched off about eight sites but we’re also focusing on a site in Wellington as well over the next three to five years. Hopefully by the end of 2023, we’ll be looking to expand into Australia as well.

How has the business been received so far?

The business is doing great. We have a wide range of tenants, including a cake company, a catering company the Sustainable Food Company, a family business called Heavenly Havoc, the Thai Kitchen and Burger Burger – a nice diverse group of food entrepreneurs that have businesses. We want home cooks to go into our shared space and start to expand their networks. We want to know what challenges people have and figure out partnerships we can have so we can have to help them. For example food suppliers so everyone can buy in bulk so hopefully that brings the food price down for everyone, and we’re looking at other initiatives like recycling oil as well to reduce operational costs.

With the increase in online deliveries at bricks and mortar stores, many of our tenant businesses have spotted the opportunity to be able to expand their footprint without going into bricks and mortar. A lot of product makers are going through that next stage and need kitchen space; for example going from being home-based to needing a commercial kitchen.

How has Covid-19 impacted your business?

Entrepreneurs we work with and ourselves have had time to look at things and figure out how to continually move forward. There have been a lot of closures [within hospitality] and hopefully we can help those people that have closed their bricks and mortar into our space to help rebuild that up. I wouldn’t say it has all been doom and gloom but everyone has gone through a challenging period, so we hope we can provide a space where people can continually grow from. For us as a business there have been a bit of a delay in regards to getting supplies of building materials, and so we faced a delay of about a month and a half.

What’s your main focus right now?

To build our community further; reaching out to a wide range of food businesses to see if our space is good for them. We want to fill our shared kitchen up with amazing food producers. Within the private kitchen spaces we’re at a 50 per cent occupancy rate, and the shared space will launch and open for bookings from May 23. We’ve seen quite a lot of demand for that, which is really exciting. We can’t wait to get the doors open.

What’s your background?

My background is in tech, I’ve been involved in a range of tech companies, both built by myself and I worked over in the UK in the tech scene. I read up on the concept around co-working commercial kitchens and fell in love with it. I hunted down the founders of Karma Kitchen for a job and then got one and was exposed to this model. I saw the benefits of the model first-hand and really want to replicate that here. My first business was Inform Analysis, which analyses sports games for secondary school level sport and club games.

What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?

Don’t ask for permission – that’s the best advice I ever got. I worked in tech and now head up co-working commercial kitchens. If I had asked people if I was good enough to be able to do this I think the answers definitely would have been no, but I just gave it a go – didn’t ask for permission and went off and did it. If you have an idea, just do it.

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